An AI tracks drug traffickers through their driving habits…

Maxence Glineur

July 18, 2023 at 8:30 a.m.


person driving car © © why kei / Unsplash

© why kei / Unsplash

Beyond the generation of images and texts, with sometimes dubious results, artificial intelligence can have an important role to play in many sectors. The New York police have just demonstrated it, and it is as impressive as it is embarrassing.

Identifying illegal activities is a lot of work for the authorities. They must find suspects, follow them, spy on them, analyze their habits and find proof of their guilt. But long gone are the days when detectives had to hide in their cars and hunt down criminals the way Starsky and Hutch. Today, law enforcement agencies have access to thousands of cameras and programs capable of analyzing the data they are able to collect.

Drivers closely watched by hundreds of cameras

This is exactly what the New York State Police in the United States did. The roads in the region are constantly scrutinized by a system of 480 surveillance cameras, capable of scanning the 16 million vehicles passing by each week. They register their license plate numbers in a gigantic database, as well as their makes and models. Called ALPR, for “Automatic License Plate Recognition” (automatic license plate recognition), this system has so far been used to identify drivers driving without a license or already wanted by the police.

All that was needed was a pinch of artificial intelligence to go further in the analysis of all the information collected by the ALPR, and it was the company Rekor, which specializes in this task, which was called upon. Its AI program is indeed able to parse the system’s database to establish the habits of drivers. By tracking routes that are regularly taken, the company is able to determine whether certain behaviors are suspicious or not.

CCTV cameras © Shutterstock

© GoodStudio / Shutterstock

A tool as powerful as it is frightening?

Recently, it was a certain David Zayas who paid the price. New York police and Rekor analyzed the individual’s habits over several years, and the algorithms noticed that he frequently traveled back and forth between Massachusetts and certain cities in upstate New York. As reported Forbesthese routes are “ known to be used by drug traffickers “. Thus brought to light by the artificial intelligence program, he was arrested by the authorities, who found in his vehicle… a large quantity of drugs, a weapon and more than 34,000 dollars in cash. Hand in the bag.

A promising collaboration? Obviously, yes, especially since it is only in its infancy. The analysis of suspicious behavior is set to become increasingly rapid and efficient, which will give more than one criminal a hard time. However, if the fact that the habits of millions of drivers are recorded and analyzed may raise questions about the protection of their privacy, another problem arises. Artificial intelligence, although capable of incredible things, can also be wrong. The problem is that the police have already shown themselves to be very confident in their tools, wrongly. Mistakes are not unique to humans, and while such methods have the potential to change our lives for the better, they could also lead to many slip-ups.

Source : Gizmodo

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